Tuesday, April 12, 2016



INSP, the non-subscription channel that delivers over fifty hours of Western TV and movies every week, has been dropped by the Dish satellite network!  INSP exclusively airs THE VIRGINIAN and HIGH CHAPARRAL, as well as showing BONANZA – THE LOST EPISODES, THE BIG VALLEY, DANIEL BOONE and LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, and runs Western series and features all-day Saturday and Sunday.  INSP is one of the most popular basic cable and satellite channels, and many Dish subscribers are furious, and letting their feelings know by email, on Facebook, and every other means possible.  The irony is that INSP, a family-friendly outfit whose names stands for ‘Inspiration’, provides its signal free to Dish; instead of subscription fees, they make their money entirely from advertising. 

The good news is, these decisions are not personal; they’re about business, and Western fans have fought them before, and won.  You may remember from the Round-up that subscribers to Dish competitor DirecTV faced a similar issue in February of 2014, when DirecTV dropped INSP.  We all went loudly nuts on the phone and social media, and DirecTV, seeing they’d underestimated INSP’s popularity with its subscribers, relented, and put the station back on.  If you are a Dish subscriber, and want INSP Westerns back, the path is clear:  call Dish at 1-844-Get-INSP (1-844-438-4677)! Visit the DISH Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/DISH  and tell them you want INSP back!  On Twitter, use the hash-tag ‪#‎IWantMyINSP.  Learn more and sign the petition at the INSP page here: http://iwantmyinsp.com/ .


You may remember that in the November 16, 2015 Round-up, we revealed that with only seven of its ordered ten episodes in the can, production on the WESTWORLD miniseries had abruptly ceased.  This was after a year of production at Melody Ranch, Gene Autry’s old western town in Santa Clarita, and rumors were rife that the series might never be completed and aired.  Happily, production quietly resumed two weeks ago. 

WESTWORLD continues as mysteriously as ever – crew members do not receive script pages for the scenes they are working on, and are baffled as to the story.  The hours are long – they’ve been wrapping at 3:30 and 4:30 in the morning.  The actual airdate for the show is yet to be announced.  Rumors put it anywhere from late in the year to 2017. 

The HBO sci-fi-western series is based on the 1973 movie from writer-director Michael Crichton, produced by Saul David.  It’s about a resort where people pay a lot of money to live out their fantasies in various eras including the old west, in a town peopled by human-seeming robots who are programmed to cater to their every wish.  The original film stars Richard Benjamin and James Brolin as tourists, and Yul Bryner – looking exactly as he did in MAGNIFICENT 7 – as a robot who develops a mind of his own, and won’t let the humans outdraw him anymore.  The new version has a large international cast, including Brit Ben Barnes, Norwegian Ingrid Barso Berdal, Brazilian Rodrigo Santoro (from JANE GOT A GUN), Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins, Thandie Newton, James Marsden, Evan Rachel Wood, and in the Yul Bryner role, Ed Harris.  For the record, Hopkins plays Dr. Robert Ford – we don’t know yet if that’s a reference to a dirty little coward, or coincidence. 


Wild East Productions is a wonderful New York-based outfit that specializes in releasing double-feature Spaghetti Westerns DVDs.  While they carry many famous titles, what they excel at is impossible-to-find Euro-westerns, and they search the world for the best possible source materials.   They’ve just released volumes 52 and 53 in their Spaghetti Western Collection.

Volume 52 features A MAN CALLED GRINGO (1965), and THE LAST TOMAHAWK (1964), both featuring Spanish actor Daniel Martin.  With all of the attention that Spanish and Italian Westerns get, it’s easy to forget that the Euro-western actually started in Germany, with Karl May’s Winnetou stories, mostly shot in what is now Croatia.  These two are both largely German productions: in GRINGO, the Rockies are portrayed by the Alps!  Helmed by big-time MGM director (it didn’t hurt that he was married to Louis Mayer’s niece) Roy Rowland, it concerns a rancher who is going to lose his stage-line if the robberies don’t cease.  LAST TOMAHAWK is particularly fun, because it’s a pretend Winnetou story, directed by WINNETOU-director Harald Reinl,  actually based on James Fennimore Cooper’s LAST OF THE MOHICANS, with Daniel Martin as Uncas to soon-to-be Western star Anthony Steffen’s Hawkeye.   

Volume 53 pairs GARRINGO (1969) and TWO CROSSES AT DANGER PASS (1967), both directed by journey Spanish action director Rafael Romero Marchent.  Curiously, they are both tales of a boy whose parents are killed, who seeks revenge as an adult, one as a hero, one as a villain.  TWO CROSSES stars Peter Martell  (Pietro Martellanza) as the man seeking revenge for his parents, and the rescue of his sister, aided by adoptive brother Mark (Luis Gaspar), a Quaker whose non-violence, non-characteristically, is played with respect rather than contempt.  In GARRONGO, Peter Lee Lawrence, a magnetic and handsome young German who died tragically at 30, plays a son whose parents deaths at the hands of Cavalry soldiers triggers a vendetta against all blue-coats, with Anthony Steffen as the soldier sent to track him down.  Both films are packed with action and at times, befitting the plots, almost operatic operatic tragedy.  In addition to trailers, a poster-art gallery, and liner notes by Westerns All’Italiana’s Tom Betts, this volume features a fascinating 22-minute interview with director Marchent, conducted by up-coming Western writer (6 BULLETS TO HELL) and director (THE PRICE OF DEATH) Danny Garcia.  Marchent’s insights into this wonderful era of European filmmaking alone are worth the price of the DVD ($21.72).  You can find these two collections, and many others, at the Wild Easy website, HERE.   http://www.wildeast.net/


On Saturday, April 16th at 1:30 pm, in the Wells Fargo Theatre, as part of their continuing ‘What is a Western?’ series, see the 1946 version of Owen Wister’s THE VIRGINIAN, starring Joel McCrea as the man with a state but no name, Barbara Britton as the schoolmarm, and Brian Donlevy as Trampas.  The first film directed by Preston Sturges’ favorite editor, Stuart Gilmore, it’s a good version of the oft-filmed story, and features Sonny Tufts, as the Virginian’s friend Steve, in the best performance of his career.  The film is introduced by Robert Nott, author of LAST OF THE COWBOY HEROES: THE WESTERNS OF RANDOLPH SCOTT, JOEL MCCREA AND AUDIE MURPHY.   

Saturday, April 23rd, at noon, go to the Legacy Theatre in the Autry’s Imagination Gallery, and catch a double-bill of Gene’s hits on a real screen!  In WESTERN JAMBOREE (1938 Republic), bad guys try to swindle a rancher out of his property for its helium deposits, until Gene and Smiley Burnette step in.  In HEART OF THE RIO GRANDE (1942 Republic), Gene and Smiley work at a dude ranch, and contend with spoiled brats and a vengeful ex-foreman. 


Saturday and Sunday, April 23rd  & 24th, Hart Park in Old Town Newhall will once again be abuzz with Western doings as the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival arrives at William S. Hart Park.  There will be all manner of Western art, clothing and gear on display and for sale, good food, living history displays, and four stages will feature live music from over 35 acts of the cowboy, folk, and bluegrass persuasion. 

For you lovers of Western literature, both fact and fable, the Buckaroo Book Shop will be along Suttler’s Row.  Author’s who’ll there to sign their books include J.R. Sanders, Jim Christina, Eric Heisner & Al Bringas, Peter Sherayko, Janet Squires, Andria Kidd, Dale Jackson, Katie Ryan, Bob Brill, Gary Williams, Mark Bedor, and John Bergstrom.  I’ll be around there Sunday, even though I don’t have any books to sign.  John Bergstrom will also be supervising music at the OutWest Cultural Center and Boutique just a block away, where more will be going on – make sure you stop in while you’re at the Festival.    

In addition to the music at the Festival, in the several days leading up, and on the days of the Fest, there will be a Lone Pine Tour, Reagan Library and Paramount Ranch Tour, Movie Night at the Hart Mansion, and several outside venues will be holding concerts for separate admission charges.  Among the performers will be John Michael Montgomery, Syd Masters and the Swing Riders, The Quebe Sisters, and a bunch more.  And it wouldn’t be the Cowboy Festival without David Thornbury twirling his ropes and Joey Dillon spinning his guns.  And it’s all just $10 for adults, $7 for kids over three – under three is free, unless they cry a lot, in which case it goes up to $10 again (that’s not official; just my suggestion).  You can learn more by going to the official website HERE.


Sorry I’m two days late!   Have a great couple o’ weeks (okay, more like a week and a half), and I’ll see ya at the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival!
Happy Trails,

All Original Content Copyright April 2016 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved


  1. Good stuff, as always. Love watching INSP one of my favorite channels. (We have Direct)

  2. Thanks Henry! Good stuff. I am glad to hear the update on Westworld!